Journal Supports VA Reorganization

Oct 24, 2003

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America's Veterans

WASHINGTON (Oct. 24, 2003) - A recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine reports that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) shift from inpatient to outpatient care during the past decade has been efficient and safe.

"These findings endorse VA's ongoing reorganization to improve health care for veterans," said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Anthony J. Principi. "The restructuring has maintained the quality of care, while allowing us to care for more veterans."

Survival rates among chronically ill veterans remained constant despite a sharp reduction in hospital-based care, reports the journal's Oct. 23 edition. Over the past eight years, VA has reorganized its health care system, closed hospital beds, expanded outpatient care and improved primary care.

VA has proposed further restructuring under the national Capital Asset Realignment for Enhanced Services (CARES) plan. The CARES proposals include realigning existing hospitals and constructing 48 new outpatient clinics, two new hospitals, two new Blind Rehabilitation Centers and four new Spinal Cord Injury Centers.

"The journal study shows that VA's move from hospital-based care to outpatient clinic-based care is in the best interests of veterans," said Principi. "CARES will continue this evolution, resulting in high quality medical care for veterans well into this century."

The journal article was based on a study by researchers at VA's Houston Center for Quality Care and Utilization Studies and Baylor College of Medicine who studied the records of 342,000 chronically ill veterans to track their health care and survival between 1994 and 1998. Hospital stays fell by 50 percent and outpatient care increased moderately. The study found that survival rates remained constant.